A common element in South Florida gardens is the pineapple patch. Almost everybody has one, from a northern perspective, it seems kind of weird. Grow your own pineapples? Why not? Even one of our neighbors, his yard could be described as nouveau retch, is seen regularly hand watering his pineapples.
Pineapples are in fact a Bromeliad, which are currently my favorite tropical perennial. Among the many Bromeliads I have planted that are purely ornamental I am afraid I have fallen prey to the trend and now have a pineapple patch between my citrus trees. I eat pineapple just about year round and the tops kept rooting in the compost heap. Unfortunately, the above is my patch, not too pretty.
Pineapples have an interesting history. Originally from the area where modern day Brazil is located, they moved via canoes paddled by traveling natives north to the Caribbean Islands where sea captains picked up on them and carried them home. One early accounting of the discovery of pineapple recounts a meal served by the Caribe tribe where a plate of pineapple rested next to a cauldron of boiling cannibalized humans. I think I would have asked for the fruit plate.
A status symbol on the dining tables of colonial America, pineapples were often rented for centerpieces and then sold after a few uses for eating. Thus the pineapple as a symbol of lush hospitality was born. The prevalence of pineapples as a decorative element may be explained by its being cheaper to carve decorative pineapples into bed posts or garden ornaments instead of renting them by the hour.
The Treasure Coast of Florida, the area I currently call home was once home to a large pineapple plantation. In 1895, Jensen Beach, Florida was named the Pineapple Capital of the World, shipping a million boxes of pineapples a year during the summer season. Later that year a devastating freeze decimated the crop, followed by a few tragic fires and fungal diseases that finished off the pineapple industry by 1920. Agricultural pursuits were redirected towards citrus. Wild Pineapple plants can still be seen on Hutchinson Island and are attributed to the original owner of the plantation, John Jensen.
Like many other popular plants, pineapples have also been bred for Ornamental use. Here are two prettier pineapple plants.